"I Knew I Was Not The Only Queer Muslim in the World": Why I Call Toronto My Home

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“I Knew I Was Not The Only Queer Muslim in the World”: Why I Call Toronto My Home

El-Farouk Khaki has created an inclusive space for queer Muslims in Toronto to feel safe and welcome. In fact, everyone is welcome.

El-Farouk Khaki - Screen Shot

El-Farouk Khaki leaning against the bar at Glad Day Bookshop, which he is a part owner of.

I was born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. We had to leave when I was seven because my dad had been part of the independence movement. We lived in England for three years before we came to Canada. When we first arrived in Toronto, we were put up in a homestay. It was a Jewish family. And so my first religious service in Canada was actually Purim in a synagogue, and I went to a Jewish school with one of the kids for a week and a half. And that was an amazing experience for me because I have a fairly Semitic nose, and as a Muslim kid in London in the public school system, I was always being teased about it. And so being in a Jewish school, I had nobody teasing me about my nose.

After 10 days, we went on to Vancouver, and that’s where I finished my elementary school, went to high school, university, and law school, but I came back to Toronto in 1989. I came here for work. And I stayed. I was offered a job at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

I started Salaam, a social support group for lesbian and gay Muslims, in 1991. You see, in Vancouver, while intellectually I knew I was not the only queer Muslim in the world, that was not my social reality. It wasn’t until I came back to Toronto that I started meeting folks in the LGBT community who were also Muslim. That was the first time I realized I was not alone. So I started Salaam to bring people together around this mutual experience of these labels that we hold. It started as a social support group, became a queer support and advocacy organization with a board, and is now a queer Muslim community. Through my work as a refugee lawyer and my work in the community as an activist, I came to understand that spiritual trauma is very profound and universal, and so I started the Toronto Unity Mosque in 2009 with my husband and a friend. It is not limited to Muslims, and it is not limited to queers, but it is queer-affirming. It’s an inclusive prayer space open to everybody.

All of us involved in creating a more inclusive and a better society all have our work cut out for us in the next little while. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had more hate messages than we’ve ever had. It’s a reflection of the anti-Muslim sentiment being articulated on social media, which is really hateful and ignorant. And it’s like, Wow, do you really move through life with this much hate? You want to talk to them about it. But how do you have that conversation when you’re dealing with people whose sense of the world doesn’t really go farther than their own nose bridge?


Immigrants of Toronto is a weekly feature celebrating Toronto’s diversity as a vibrant city of immigrants, refugees, and newcomers, as told to Stephen Thomas.

Comments

23 Responses

  1. AWinningHABit says:

    You sure it’s not Muslims writing the hate mail?

    • DerekPearce says:

      Please take a reality pill. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s actually examine the cray-cray of your post. Why would Muslims do that? Because they want to make it socially acceptable to express this hate? Answer: No.

      • AWinningHABit says:

        Because Muslims, like Christians, don’t like gay people. Do you have proof that the hate mail weren’t from Muslims or are you just going with the meme that it must be a right wing Christofascist?

        • OgtheDim says:

          “Up goes the hand of a Christian here.”

          Not all

        • El-Farouk Khaki says:

          Why don’t you re-read the article .. your question is answered there and again in my replies to two other posts in the comments section.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek says:

      1. Does it matter who is writing the hate mail?
      2. Do you doubt his ability to tell whether the hate mail is directed at homosexuals or Muslims?

      • AWinningHABit says:

        The guy in the article is claiming that gay Muslims are being targeted because of anti-Muslim bigotry. Just wanted to know how he came to that conclusion.

        • El-Farouk Khaki says:

          From the emails and posts we are getting on our FB and other social media. That’s how !

          • MaxImPerfect says:

            it appears you have special powers to discern the race and motivations of people posting on your FB page – garbage claim by you to disguise your innate bigotry in favour of established leftist liberal narratives – you are just not good enough in pulling it off and your efforts fall flat and expose your nasty self righteous self promotion.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek says:

          It should be fairly obvious to them from the content of the hate mail why they’re being targeted. I trust they’re able to figure it out themselves.

      • AWinningHABit says:

        He assumes it’s white people so yes, it does matter.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek says:

          I don’t see anything in the article pointing the finger at white people.

    • El-Farouk Khaki says:

      It used to be just an occasional Muslim posting a homophobic comment .. now we have ostensibly non Muslim white people posting anti- Muslim comments ..

      • AWinningHABit says:

        I’m sorry to hear that.

        Those people are just stupid. They should stand in solidarity with you not push you away.

      • MaxImPerfect says:

        “…..non-muslim white people” – can you see their race in the posts or is this just another knee-jerk velvet racist presumption/assumption to buttress your pathetic argument for inclusion etc… ?

        you are a well known publicity seeking NDP functionary who it appears, is working hard to maintain the ‘perceived’ victim status of the queer and muslim communities. Queer victim-hood is an old discredited story and muslim-phobia is a fabrication of invested groups in denial of the slam that your islamo-fascists put into Islam.

        you ‘nose’ chat in your screed above is actually quite pathetic and is a contribution to perpetuating a racist stereotype….meanwhile you employ this device as a tool to make you look accepting and tolerant while it is almost certain that scratching your surface will expose a velvet neo-fascist leftist racist bigot invested in perpetuating stereotypes – both positive and negative.

        your virtue signalling is a transparent attempt to embellish your self -loathing – you have failed.

      • AWinningHABit says:

        I’m with MaxImPerfect. How can you tell white people posted the hate?

  2. Ichabod Crain says:

    Islam and Homosexuality mix like oil and water. Muhammad himself called for the killing of homosexuals. Ibn ‘Abbaas is the one who narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the words: “Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Lot, execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.” […] The companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) agreed unanimously that the homosexual is to be executed, and none of them differed concerning that. Rather they differed as to the method of execution. […]

    So you cannot be both gay and a Muslim at the same time. Something has to give, Either you gotta give up being Muslim, or give up being gay.

    • tomlois says:

      Queer & any of the Abrahamic bogeymen don’t mix. I’m here, I’m queer and I shouldn’t have to put up with any of the fairy tale nonsense that requires ‘faith’ to be ‘believed’.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek says:

      Do you hold Christians to the same standard? Their Bible has some choice things to be said about gays (while legitimizing rape and misogyny and all sorts of other things) and is the go-to for the fire and brimstone set to condemn anything rainbow flavoured, yet we know this doesn’t represent the majority of Christians’ beliefs in practice. Even their pope is coming around.

  3. LTJ says:

    Sad that the haters instantly swarming this thread forced Torontoist to close and block the discussion on their own site.